Australian News - May 2009

For more news, visit the Australian Local Government Association - http://www.alga.asn.au


2020 Response

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, released the Federal Government response to the Australia 2020 Summit on 22 April 2009. The release follows the Prime Minister's commitment to consider fully the more than 900 ideas generated by participants to the Australia 2020 Summit.

The Response outlines ideas the government will implement, those it will explore further and those which, at this time, will not proceed. It mentions that "the Government is committed to ongoing reform of our Constitution where appropriate." This is timely given ALGA's submission to the 2020 summit called on the Australian Government to work towards recognition of local government in the Constitution, and local government delegates agreed at the Constitutional Summit in December 2008 to pursue this goal. The 2020 Response includes ten chapters - based on the topics discussed at the Australia 2020 Summit - which can be viewed or downloaded separately here.



African Australians: A report

The last 10 years has seen several conferences and reports directed at issues for African communities in Australia, mostly with a localized perspective. The Australian Human Rights Commission felt it timely to build on this valuable foundation, but also elevate issues to the national level.

There has been no national report that looks at the issues facing African Australians from a human rights perspective. The African Australians: A report on human rights and social inclusion issues will seek to address this identified research 'gap'.
The aim of the project is two-fold:
· To explore the issues relating to the settlement of African Australians into the Australian community from a human rights perspective
· To suggest solutions to issues raised and make recommendations to stakeholders to inform future policy, program and service design as well as public debate and education.

The project will work to ensure that a more accurate documentation of the experiences of African Australians is developed, as well as illustrating the multi-dimensional nature of these experiences and related issues. The project will have a special focus on issues faced by groups that may experience greater vulnerabilities:
· Young people
· African Muslim communities
· African Muslim women

This project is being undertaken as a partnership between:
· AHRC
· AMES
· Australian Red Cross
· Diversity Health Institute
· FaHCSIA

MyriaD Consultants have been commissioned to work with the project Steering Committee and Community Reference Group to undertake this project.

To access a copy of the project Discussion Paper or for more information, click here.

Electronic submissions are encouraged on any of the issues in the Discussion Paper and comments can be sent via email to: africanaus@humanrights.gov.au.



Funding for women in local government

The Australian Federal Government has announced $23,000 in funding for the Australian Local Government Women's Association to support plans to encourage more women to participate in local government.

Projects that support and attract women into local government - as councillors and as staff - will be funded such as the Gender Equity in Local Government project and the development of mentor networks to support women's participation in local government over three years. A representative from the Department of Infrastructure will now be on the ALGWA National Steering Committee for this project.

Women are under-represented in local government with fewer than 1 in 3 councillors being women at present. A 2007 review by ALGWA showed that only 20 per cent of women working in local government are employed as professionals. Data released by Local Government Managers Australia shows that about five per cent of council chief executive officers or general managers are women.



Funding for heritage projects

The Australian Federal Government has recently committed $60 million to heritage projects as part of its $650 million Jobs Fund, overseen by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The heritage component is being administered by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

The heritage funding will provide support for projects to protect, conserve and promote Australia's National Heritage Listed places, National Trust properties, community heritage including locally significant places and natural heritage.

This investment in Australia's historic, Indigenous and natural heritage is designed to provide economic stimulus by focusing on projects that have an immediate employment impact and ongoing economic benefits, whilst providing support for community groups and organisations involved in heritage projects across the country.

The initiative will commence immediately with targeted nationally significant projects. Applications for projects to be funded from the beginning of the 2009-2010 financial year are now being received. The guidelines and an application form are available at: www.deewr.gov.au.

Please note that heritage projects must be completed by 30 June 2010.

Specific information about the heritage component of the Jobs Fund can be found at www.heritage.gov.au, by emailing heritagegrants@environment.gov.au.

In addition, $500 million will be invested to strengthen non profit organisations and build community resilience. Applications are now open for the Jobs Fund that provides grants of up to $2 million dollars for non-profit organisations to undertake projects that invest in local community infrastructure and build social capital.

The Fund includes two streams that provide grants of up to $2 million for non profit organisations:
· The $300 million Local Jobs stream provides funding for community infrastructure projects with a focus on promoting environmental-friendly technology and heritage.
· The $200 million Get Communities Working provides grants for innovative employment and social projects that build community resilience.

Funding will commence on 1 July 2009 with applications due on 22 May 2009. Guidelines can be downloaded here.



Infrastructure the key to healthy communities

The CEO of the National Heart Foundation, Dr Lyn Roberts, stressed the importance of partnering with local government in a recent address at the National Press Club in Canberra.

"The need now is for Australians to live in a community, in a neighbourhood that supports them to make better, healthier choices," she said. "There needs to be investment - massive investment - in public transport, in walking and cycling strategies, in infrastructure that promotes safe physical activity."

Dr Roberts said that local and state governments should be encouraged and supported to design or redesign communities that encourage public transport use, have spaces to play, have paths to walk and cycle, and which put pedestrians before cars.

ALGA is working with the Heart Foundation on the Healthy Spaces and Places initiative in partnership with the Planning Institute of Australia, to give planners the tools they need to create more active communities. With cardiovascular diseases Australia's biggest killer, causing 34% of all deaths, a greater emphasis on prevention through behavioural change such as modifications to diet and exercise is everyone's responsibility.

Dr Roberts also called on the Australian Government to increase tobacco tax to drive up quit rates and boost funding for disease prevention, particularly for those in lower socio-economic groups.